Friday, November 17, 8 PM
Richmond’s Last Waltz, feat. Kelli Strawbridge, Kenneka Cook, Landon Elliott, Prabir Mehta, and many more @ The Camel – $5 in advance/$7 day of show (order tickets HERE)
OK listen, I wouldn’t normally go all-out for a tribute show, but this one seems deserving of special mention to me. The Last Waltz was a concert film made by Martin Scorcese, documented the star-studded farewell concert by The Band in 1976. The original film featured not only a full set of The Band’s excellent moody, country-infused folk-rock but a host of guest appearances by everyone from Neil Young to the Staples Singers. Now, some local Richmond musicians are recreating the entire film as a long concert featuring all sorts of Richmond notables in a variety of roles. They’ll be kicking off the last weekend before Thanksgiving with this celebratory tribute event, live onstage at The Camel, and it’s sure to be an amazing time.
All it takes is one look at the lineup of musicians taking part in all of this to recognize its brilliance. It all starts with the quintet who’ll be playing the roles of The Band themselves, which features members of The Congress, Angelica Garcia‘s backing band, solo singer-songwriter Sid Kingsley, and more. Then there are the many guests making up a veritable who’s who of the Richmond soul, jazz, funk, jam, folk, and rock scenes–Kelli Strawbridge, Prabir Mehta, Kenneka Cook, Landon Elliott, Corey Axt, Brent McCormick, and quite a few more will pay tribute to the various guests who join The Band throughout the evening. Though I will say that I hope whoever portrays Neil Young (Prabir?) doesn’t go so far as to recreate the huge chunk of cocaine hanging out of Neil’s nose, which had to be rotoscoped out of the original film. Oops!
It’s the second half of November, y’all. Christmas music is already playing in the stores, Santa’s at the mall charging parents exhorbitant amounts for pictures with their terrified toddlers, turkey consultants are giving seminars on how to make Thanksgiving meals at Bed Bath and Beyond–it’s the holiday season, is what I’m saying. Around the musical world, this time of year offers us all a chance to have some fun and maybe not do everything with the same sort of seriousness and do-or-die intensity we bring to the stage most of the year. Seeing a bunch of incredibly talented local players loosen up and jamming on some old The Band tunes over at The Camel is a far less stressful way to celebrate this time of year than most of the other things we’ll be doing. So hey, why not? It’ll be a blast!
Wednesday, November 15, 8 PM
Pere Ubu, Minibeast, DJ Good Show Steve @ Strange Matter – $20 (order tickets HERE)
Pere Ubu aren’t exactly spring chickens. Sole remaining original member David Thomas (he’s the guy with the cane in the picture) has been doing the band since 1976, right after his previous band Rocket From The Tombs broke up. Rocket, one of the first punk bands, did a lot to create a sound and scene that’s still going strong over 40 years later, but Pere Ubu’s immediate mission became to mutate, undercut, and otherwise distort the original stripped-down rock n’ roll of punk into much weirder and more cerebral shapes. They’re still doing that to this day, as proven on recently-released 16th or so album 20 Years In a Montana Missile Silo. The mesmerizing atonal racket of early analog synths is still a core element of the Ubu sound, as are Thomas’s high, hectoring vocal rants, the funky rhythm section, and the razor-sharp guitar leads that cut through the whole thing.
From classic early singles like “Heart Of Darkness” to new album highlights like “Prison of the Senses,” the band will explore their full 40-plus-year history from the Strange Matter stage this evening. As a special bonus, they’ll be joined by Minibeast. This group features Peter Prescott, best known for his lengthy tenures as the drummer for pioneering postpunks Mission Of Burma and late 80s/early 90s noise-rock mainstays Volcano Suns. In Minibeast, Prescott indulges in his more outre interests, exploring all sorts of different instruments and textures as the head of a four-piece band. It might not be what you’ve come to expect from Prescott, but with an innovator like him, you should probably learn to expect the unexpected. This is also true of Pere Ubu, really. Prepare to be challenged.
Thursday, November 16, 6 PM
Richmond Unplugged, feat. Julie Karr, Allie Smith, Tess Fisher, Nathan Grice, Adrienne Shurte, Timmy Peele @ Champion RVA – Free!
Just as with our featured show this week, we have here yet another unusual bill that shows different sides of quite a few local musicians you’ve come to know and love. This week, Champion’s Thursday night free-show series takes things up a notch with the first ever “Richmond Unplugged” event. They’re hoping to make it a series, which has plenty of potential for awesomeness, so hopefully a lot of y’all make it down for this one. You certainly can’t go wrong by doing so, especially with Julie Karr at the top of the bill here. I get that these are all people we mainly know as frontpeople of electric bands, but Julie Karr has a bit of an advantage since, in addition to her years fronting Bad Magic, she has a long-running solo career from which to draw. Her spirited, bluesy folk solo material is just as riveting as the janglier, more indie-style Bad Magic tunes, so either way, you can’t lose.
As for the others on this bill, I’m sure all of them have busted out a solo set at least a time or two, though you’re far less likely to have caught them doing so in the past. However, from Blush Face to Big No, one thing we know about all of their bands is that they all are driven by strong songwriting and memorable melodies. All of those things should shine just as brightly in a solo acoustic environment, so this new take on some pretty excellent local sounds is sure to be worth your time. Plus, you’re getting six full sets from a variety of local Richmond music luminaries, all for exactly zero dollars. If you’d nitpick this one, you’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
Friday, November 17, 8 PM
Solace Sovay, Toxic Moxie, Mangoux @ Gallery 5 – $5
Solace Sovay haven’t had the highest of local profiles over the past couple of years (partly because of their onetime issues with finding a permanent drummer), so you could be forgiven for having no idea who this local trio actually are. However, the time to get on board has arrived, as this Friday night’s show at Gallery 5 marks the release of their latest album, It Doesn’t Matter What It Is, Just What It Seems <3 (yes, the heart is part of the title). Copies of the album will be handed out to all show attendees for free, so that $5 (already a criminally cheap door price in a time when $5 won’t even buy you a combo meal at Taco Bell) goes even farther this time around. You’d be a fool to miss it.
I should probably elaborate on what Solace Sovay has to offer, though, just so you know what you need to stop missing out on. Right now, only three tunes from their new album are available for streaming online, but all of them show the same sort of strong melodic sense and huge, glowing atmosphere that initially struck me about this band upon first seeing them at a house show several years ago. The word “shoegaze” gets thrown around a lot these days, and in a lot of cases it indicates a pretty poor understanding of what is actually meant by the term. However, Solace Sovay’s sounds really do indicate influence from the more mellow side of that early 90s UK movement, with Slowdive vibes crisscrossing some prime early Smashing Pumpkins riffs and even a bit of that outstanding later Talk Talk ambience (Spirit of Eden here, folks, not “It’s My Life”). The occasional accents from saxophone or keyboard only take these songs higher. I can’t wait to hear the whole thing. The fact that Toxie Moxie and Mangoux are both on this bill as well only sweetens the pot. Don’t miss this one.
Saturday, November 18, 9 PM
Left Cross, Organ Donor, Devil’s Hand, Firing Squad @ Wonderland – $5
These days it seems like certain segments of the hardcore scene are all but indistinguishable from straight-up death metal. Here in Richmond, the primary proponent of that blurring and confusion is Left Cross, a band formed by members of Unsacred and fueled primarily, it seems, by a desire to recreate the dark, terrifying sounds of formative 80s metal classics like Scream Bloody Gore, Seven Churches, or even Blood Fire Death. It’s pretty awesome, if a bit of a surprise to find this band’s first album being released by Vinyl Conflict and not Prosthetic or something. But hey, who cares? Shredding is shredding, and in this case shredding rules, so let’s all get ready to headbang!
Organ Donor are also on this bill, and there’s no confusion about which side of the hardcore/metal line this group exists on–it’s the metal line, and make no mistake. I haven’t heard anything from them since their 2012 demo (I know, I know) but unless they’ve done a full reinvention of their sound in the last five years, you can expect some serious guttural chugging from these folks, and plenty more reasons to bang your head. Devil’s Hand, one of the many longer-running Richmond hardcore bands who only seems to show up on a bill once every couple years these days, will be busting out the raging USHC sounds of their 2013 Vinyl Conflict EP release for this one, and the younger and still quite active RVA HC band Firing Squad will kick things off with a dose of high-speed pugnacity. Wear your studded wristbands for this one, y’all.
Sunday, November 19, 9 PM
Sorority Boy, Colder Planets @ Emilio’s – Free!
If you’ve actually checked out some show calendars out there, you’re probably aware that a lot of longtime touring veterans are coming to town on this night. The noise-rockers are all gonna be seeing Unsane at Strange Matter. The emo revival types, and the kids who are still around from the original days, will be catching the MeWithoutYou/Pianos Become The Teeth double-bill at The Broadberry. The sad indie punks will be down at Capital Ale House checking out Waxahatchee. I found it very hard to choose which one of these three shows to cover, but I ended up deciding not to cover any of them, because for my money, the most interesting and least predictable live music event happening in Richmond this Sunday night will be taking place over at Emilio’s.
That’s for my money, but you won’t have to worry about any of your money getting invested in this one, since this show is free. You are certain to have a good time, though, especially with the presence on the bill of Charlottesville’s Sorority Boy. This glittering duo manages to combine a minimalist, lo-fi aesthetic and a fuzzy, overloaded shoegaze beauty in much the same way many classic DC/Maryland alt-punk bands did back in the early 90s. They evoke pleasant shades of unjustly forgotten bands like Black Tambourine, Lorelei, The Lilys, and Rocketship with their overdriven guitar melodies, to outstanding effect. RVA five-piece Colder Planets, who join Sorority Boy on this bill, bring more instruments and a cleaner sound to the table, but their grasp of those thrilling jangly melodies is similar to that of Sorority Boy, making this show a great way to spend two hours and zero dollars on a Sunday night. More like this, please.
Monday, November 20, 6 PM
Traitors, Sabella, Shadows, Betrayer, Silent on Fifth Street @ The Canal Club – $12 in advance/$15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Haha OMG OK let’s just get this out there right now–Traitors is kind of a ridiculous band. I’m not saying I don’t love them, because I kind of can’t help but love them in the same way I’m super stoked on Sworn In or Xibalba, but it must be admitted that they are ridiculous. Deathcore was bound to reach this extreme, though, in which bands broke through some sort of fourth wall into the nether reaches of slam death metal by deciding that breakdowns were so sick they just weren’t gonna play anything else. It’s true–Traitors songs start with breakdowns. Brutal ones. Then at a certain point, after that riff has started to seem relatively normal-speed, they break it down farther. Eventually they land at the sort of insane slow-motion breakdown pioneered by Shattered Realm and On Broken Wings a decade or so ago. Then the song ends, and another one starts. With another breakdown.
What I’m saying is, if you hate it when there are random mediocre two-step parts in the middle of mosh songs just to break them up, if you get sick of waiting around for the breakdown, Traitors are the band for you. They’ll keep you spinkicking and windmilling all night. You’ll need to do some exercise so you’re not tired out after two songs, of course, but that just means you should listen to Traitors records while you work out, in order to get more stoked and become more familiar with the changes so you can time your mosh moves perfectly. I admit that I will be way back in the anonymous crowd during all of this–after all, when was the last time you saw a 40-year-old woman throwing down hard in the pit? But don’t let my intrusive awareness of my own mortality stop you–be young, be wild, be free, be the kids wrecking the pit during the Traitors show at The Canal Club this Monday night. Your elders are watching–don’t let us down.
Tuesday, November 21, 8 PM
Furnsss, Joy Again, Big Baby, Ruth Good @ Strange Matter – $7
Here’s another show with some pleasant reminders of the excellent indie sounds that surrounded me in my late 80s/early 90s high school heyday. Ah, the good old days… just kidding, I was miserable. If it weren’t for music, I wouldn’t have made it out, for sure. Furnsss may remind me of bad times, but they do so by playing some really great music with a really pleasant, positive vibe. There are some clear callbacks to 80s college-rock jangle here, but a post-chillwave aesthetic sees this band firmly grounded in the sounds of today and the scene of 2017’s college rockers. Even though this music appeals to my old ass, it is firmly of the moment, and it’s been great watching Furnsss work their way up through the house-show underground and into the relative big time at Strange Matter.
Furnsss are joined on this tour by Joy Again, a fun, upbeat band from Philly with some indie-style jangly guitars that pair well with a sort of pop-garage aesthetic reminiscent of a far more sugary Sheer Mag. They’re fun, Furnsss are fun, and with the addition of local jangly indie-rock superstars Big Baby, this bill just got a whole lot funner! The evening will kick off with a set from Camp Howard side project Ruth Good, who have a lot to offer in their own right. This is a bill to put a smile on your face. And as the weather gets colder and the dark side of the holidays beckons, that’s something we could all use.
Email me if you’ve got any tips for me about upcoming shows (that take place after the week this column covers–this week’s column has obviously already been written): [email protected] [yes, my email is through GayRVA, don’t get weird about it]